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It's good to argue: Teenagers more likely to resist drink and drugs if they row with their parents
Teens who learn to express their opinions are better able to resist peer pressure, finds study
16:49 GMT, 19 June 2012
It is kind of thing that most parents would do their best to avoid.
But now it turns out that deliberately starting a row with a teenager might be good parenting – and could do them the world of good.
Argumentative teenagers are better off later in life than those who are more placid, researchers have found.
Arguing gives teenagers confidence and negotiating skills
Boys and girls who regularly get into verbal fights with their parents are better suited to fending off peer pressure and less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol.
They are also more skilled negotiators and can ‘learn to be taken more seriously’ after some jousting with their elders.
The researchers concluded that parents should consider actively starting rows with their teenagers just to hone their skills, even if it does result in an ear-bashing in the short term.
The US study from the University of Virginia involved observing and making audio and video recordings of 150 13-year-olds having an argument with their mothers.
The same participants were then quizzed three years later on their lives and asked about their experiences with drugs and alcohol.
Teenagers who displayed ‘confidence’ and used reason to back up their statements were more likely to have refused both, the researchers found.
Joseph Allen, a University of Virginia psychology professor and the lead author of the study, said that the connection between resisting peer pressure and a teenager’s ability to argue was ‘surprising’.
He said: ‘It turns out that what goes on in the family is actually a training ground for teens in terms of how to negotiate with other people’.
His colleague Joanna Chango, a clinical psychology graduate, added that it seemed ‘counter-intuitive to tell parents to let their teens argue with them’ but was worth considering.
She said: ‘Basically, our main finding is that the more that these teens are able to openly express their own viewpoints and be assertive … they are more likely to resist peer influence to use drugs and alcohol a few years later’.
The other benefits were that teenagers were able to ‘assert themselves and establish a sense of autonomy,’ she said.
The only caveat was that rather than slamming doors like a teenager might, a parent must have ‘good reasons presented in a moderate way’ during the argument if they want to set a decent example.
The results were published in the journal Child Development.